These questions pretty clearly show that God knows the future:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11, ESV

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

John 16:13, ESV

Open theism "is the Christian doctrine that the future is not settled but open because God is alive, eternally free, and inexhaustibly creative."

So how do open theists respond to these verses?

  • I have voted to close this question as its basis is philosophical, not Christian.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 7:47
  • My guess for John 16:13 would be that open theists would say, "all truth" that Jesus referred to was all truth that existed, whereas if the future of any given point is not yet settled at that point, there is no truth to guide anyone into regarding the unsettled points. Kind of like in John 1:3 and Romans 8:28, "all things" would refer to all things that exist, not things that don't exist. (But I don't speak for open theists.)
    – LarsH
    Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 13:15
  • christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/65481/… also has some relevant info.
    – LarsH
    Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 13:20
  • @NigelJ - how do you distinguish between Christian and philosophical questions? For example, aren't questions about the Trinity philosophical as well?
    – user50422
    Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 14:59
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator Question regarding the nature of God can only be answered from within the revelation that God has given of himself. Nothing can be known of him other than what he has revealed. Therefore such questions can only ever be a matter of hermeneutical analysis of the written revelation. Which is not 'philosophy'.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 15:11

2 Answers 2


The quote from Jeremiah refers to God's plans. Plans do not require foreknowledge, only forethought. I doubt that Open Theists deny that God plans ahead. The question is whether He has one plan that He knows will work out in every detail with exactitude because of foreknowledge, or an infinite number of contingency plans, one of which will achieve his ultimate aim. Chess computers can now outplay the best human players. The human player has the freedom to choose any legal move they want on their turn, it just means that they lose in a different way.

The quote from John comes closer to posing an issue. However, in 2000 years, has the Holy Spirit provided anyone a detailed timetable and roadmap for all of human history? Or has the Spirit given a broad outline of the shape of God's plan, such that history falls within those parameters and accomplishes God's purposes, but the path to each waypoint along the journey is a surprise? I believe that the lack of such a comprehensive revelation to anyone individually or the church collectively over this long period shows that the meaning of John 16:13, if true, must be different from what your question assumes.

If I succeed in deducing God's comprehensive year-by-year plan for history, I will let you and the Open Theists know.

  • Can the timing of Jesus' birth, life, death, etc. really be seen as one of an "infinite number of contingency plans"? What if that contingency had failed? Can you worship a God who doesn't know what's coming? How can the Spirit give a broad outline that encompasses what it does not know? In my reading, the book says God knows the end from the beginning and there are no qualifiers. Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 12:26
  • @MikeBorden it's not that hard to arrange that a specific genome line would get supernaturally pregnant in the correct city at a specific point of time. There were plenty of arrangements to be made around that one very important event, but in the grand scheme of things, it's still far from a fully predetermined universe. Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 12:47
  • 1
    @MikeBorden - I personally believe that what you say is true. Addressing the two verses given in the question was possible in a short answer. As you point out, the Bible says many more things that do not mesh with Open Theism. I do not have answers for all of them because I do not believe they can be refuted! Ecclesiastes 3:11 and Isaiah 46:10 that you allude to are examples. I am doing the final edits on a book on Ecclesiastes that I have been laboring on for the last two years, following on the heels of a book I wrote about Job. Both speak volumes about God's sovereignty. Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 14:39
  • 1
    @JohnDvorak "it's still far from a fully predetermined universe" -- but open theists say the future is completely unknowable, right? (At least, some branches of open theism.)
    – LarsH
    Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 15:30
  • 1
    @MikeBorden - A survey of the animals and metals used by the other prophets shows that they seem to be consistent with Daniel. By comparing the lists (which overlap, but some animals are missing in some lists) it is evident that in addition to being iron and a terrible beast, Rome is also associated with wolves. This likely would not have applied to Carthage. Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 16:19

The Bible does not teach predestination. It teaches that God gives humans choices and holds them accountable for their actions.

Deuteronomy 30:19 says:

"This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live"

God evidently does have the ability to tell the future, but he has unlimited knowledge and sight, as well as the power to cause anything he wishes to happen. Consider these examples: if a parent tells a child that they will get burned if they touch something hot, and then it happens just as the parent said it would, that is not a prophecy fulfilled - that is simply having a superior knowledge of the consequences. Likewise, if a parent tells a child that they themselves will punish the child for bad behaviour, and then they have to carry that out, this is also not a prophecy fulfilled - the parent used their own free will to carry out what they previously said they would do.

We do not comprehend how God sees the future, but evidently, he does not predetermine our futures as individuals, otherwise he would not give them choices or hold them accountable for their actions. His 'plans', as referred to in the verses you quoted, were things he wanted to happen and could cause to happen.

At Luke 19:40, Jesus had been asked to stop his disciples from preaching, but in reply said:

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Jesus disciples preached because they used their personal free will to respond to the call. Although Jesus was using hyperbole in this verse, the point was that God would see his will take place even if nobody responded to it. Again, this proves that he causes what he says will happen to happen, and this does not conflict with the concept of free will.

  • This has been flagged as not an answer, so it would help if you could add some quotes or references to Open Theists to show that this does accurately represent their teachings.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 0:27
  • Also, it isn't open theism or predestination. There are 2 other views. Molenism and Simple Foreknowledge both maintain libertarian free will.
    – Luke Hill
    Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 3:01

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .